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Cupressus.

The Cypress

XXXI.

Indicat effigies metae, nomenque cupressi
Tractandos parili conditione suos.[1]
ALIUD,
Funesta est arbor, procerum monumenta cupressus,
Quale apium plebis, comere fronde solet. [2]
ALIUD.
Pulchra coma est, pulchro digestaeque ordine frondes,
Sed fructus nullos haec coma pulchra gerit.[3]

The cone-shaped form and the name ‘cypress’ indicate that one’s people should be dealt with on equal terms.
Other.
The cypress is a funereal tree. Its branches usually adorn the memorials of leading men as parsley-stems adorn those of humble people.
Other.
The foliage is beautiful, and the leaves all arranged in neat order, but this beautiful foliage bears no fruit.

Notes:

1. This refers to the supposed etymology, Greek κύειν and πάρισος ‘bear’,‘equal’.

2. See Pliny, Natural History, 20.44.113 for the use of parsley at funeral meals.

3. See Erasmus, Adagia, 4210 (Cyparissi fructus).


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    Antiquissima quaeque commentitia.

    The oldest things are all invented

    EMBLEMA CLXXXII.

    Pelleneae senex cui forma est histrica, Proteu,[1]
    Qui mod membra viri fers, mod membra feri:
    Dic age, quae species ratio te vertit in omnes,
    Nulla sit ut vario certa figura tibi?
    Signa vetustatis, primaevi & praefero secli,[2]
    De quo quisque suo somniat arbitrio.

    Proteus, old man of Pallene, whose outward appearance changes like an actor’s, assuming sometimes the body of a man, sometimes that of a beast, come, tell me, what is your reason for turning into all kinds of shapes, so that you have no permanent form as you constantly alter? I offer symbols of antiquity and the very first times, concerning which everyone dreams up what he will.

    Notes:

    1. Proteus was ‘the Old Man of the Sea’, who evaded capture by constantly changing his shape. See e.g. Homer, Odyssey, 4.400ff.; Vergil, Georgics, 4. 405-10, 440-2; Erasmus, Adagia, 1174 (Proteo mutabilior). Vergil (Georgics, 4.391) describes him living near the headland of Pallene (on the Macedonian coast). The idea of Proteus as a gifted actor or mime-artist is taken from Lucian, Saltatio, 19.

    2. signa vetustatis primaevi et...secli, ‘symbols of antiquity and the very first times’. Pallene (see n.1.) suggested a connection with the Greek word παλαιός ‘ancient’, as the name Proteus was supposedly connected with πρώτιστος, ‘the very first’.


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